NEW YORK-NEW BELFAST PARTNERSHIP: Andrea Haughian, VP for the Americas at Invest NI, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Lord Mayor Micky Murray, CEO of Belfast City Council John Walsh and Alison Metcalfe, Head of Tourism Ireland in North America

DiNapoli Welcomes Restored Executive, Tells New Yorkers Belfast is 'Sound Investment'

Addressing the annual New York-New Belfast conference last week, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli revealed that Empire State public service retirees have now committed $106m in pension funds to the Northern Irish economy.

And the Comptroller, who has visited Northern Ireland four times since first taking up the State-wide post in 2007, stressed that Fund investments in the peace process had produced "sound returns". 

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"And that," he added, "is good news for the 1.2 million working and retired members of our pension system."

Speaking to a full house in the New York Athletic Club, Comptroller DiNapoli said New York wants to be a part of the success of the peace process by helping to create economic progress for all communities.

An additional commitment of $50m from the Fund, made when the Comptroller joined an economic mission to the North of Ireland last October, has yet to be fully disbursed. "So my message is: we are still looking for investment," he added. 

Before the conference luncheon, the Comptroller met with freshly-appointed Belfast Lord Mayor Mickey Murray and saluted his determination to create a more inclusive Belfast.

Remarking on New York's longtime commitment to the MacBride Principles on Fair Employment, the Comptroller told the conference that he had recently written to 16 U.S. companies with operations in Northern Ireland to seek assurances on their hiring policies. 

Among the companies contacted was Wichita, KS-headquartered Spirit AeroSystems, which operates the Short Brothers factory in Belfast, where Catholics continue to be underrepresented in the workforce. 

Added DiNapoli: "Religious discrimination can stifle company growth—along with the long-term value of the Fund’s investments in those companies—and just as important, it is antithetical to the values that the Good Friday Peace agreement was built upon."

Reiterating the State's continued commitment to Belfast, the Comptroller pledged to use his office to strengthen the transatlantic bonds between New York and the North of Ireland. 

"I’m confident that, despite the challenges ahead, the future of Northern Ireland is bright," he concluded.  "But we need focused, strong investment on all levels—locally, nationally, and internationally—to continue the success that we’ve seen over the past 26 years. Today, the ties that unite New York and Belfast have never been stronger. Rest assured, I will do all I can to strengthen our partnership in the years to come."

Among attendees at the New York-New Belfast conference were Mike Cusick, President of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation and Deputy Consul General of Ireland in New York Gareth Hargadon.